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Urban Terror
The Story Of Urban Terror HD



in Urban Terror - posted 1 month ago by FrozenSand
Where did 'HD' come from?

Ah...back in the days.....back around the time all those High Definition products were being released... so shiny... so new... we thought we would jump on the bandwagon and bring out a High Definition game.

One second... I've just had word...

My bad, I've made a serious mistake here... you see here at FS HQ we have 3 departments to seek answers from. They would be Answers, Answers with Thought, and Correct Answers... I confess I only spoke to the 'Answers' guys cause I get a set of free steak knives with every result. I won't be going to them again... they really just make fun of me for not knowing whatever it is, and then send me on my way with some answer out of a hat.

Remind me to fire them at some point... maybe after I get my steak knives.

So after contacting the 'Correct Answers' department I have it on good authority that 'High Definition' has absolutely nothing to do with 'Urban Terror HD' at all. Wow ok... the High Def thing seemed so legit didn't it...

It actually stands for 'HEAVY DUTY'! Righto! We learn something new everyday, and today is no exception! I will pass this onto the Answers Department also... :P

Some history before we begin

So you remember DOOM? Well, id Software made that - they're a game development company who have been around since the 90's and have made fantastic developments in video game technologies for the PC, and in particular their work in 3D computer graphics technology and game engines has been very important. Their engine idTech3, popularly called the Quake3 engine has been used for a number of games including their own Quake 3 and of course Urban Terror (people also tend to call the engine by the version of the game it came out with, so to use this as an example, we were after the Quake 3 1.32b engine, so confusing isn't it!). Just for ease we will call it idTech3 from here on in.

So back when Quake 3 was released they allowed teams of modders to mod the game, but only by using the QVM. The QVM in essence is like this little wart on top of the big engine. You can do some things with it, and it links to the engine, but you are never really touching the engine itself. So anyway, you could play with the QVM, and make mods of the game itself but you had to comply with the licensing conditions. That's how we began! As a team of modders in 1999-2000 who used that mod license to create a quake 3 mod, which was running on Quake 3.

Urban Terror as you know it today

On August 19 2005, id Software released the idTech3 source code - under the GNU General Public License. If you wanted to modify the engine however, and keep the modifications closed source (private), you had to pay for it. And it was pricey!
Shortly after that a team of developers decided to take on the idTech3 engine and make it better. So after idTech3 was made open source the 'ioquake3' project was also started. Since then the ioquake3 team (and FrozenSand - you can see all our files here) have added a lot of features and improvements to the open-source engine. Urban Terror 4 runs on any of the Quake 3 compatible engines including Quake 3 itself, of course.

Around that time (2007 - 2009) cheaters started becoming prevalent and the community wanted something done about it. Which meant an anti-cheat system. That combined with the fact we could use things like md5 animations (as opposed to the stock md3 ones) led us to wanting to purchase the engine off id Software so we could modify it and do what we liked. The engine we were interested in was the one quake 3 was released on (idTech3). We would need to start from scratch on it, as none of the things that had been applied to the open-source ioquake3 project could then be applied to our engine which would be closed source. Buying the engine was the only way we could implement the anti-cheat and auth properly, as working in the QVM is very limited, as mentioned before.

Just as a quick explanation of what md5 is, I will quote our master of animations, FrankieV, "MD5 is a skeletal based animation system first introduced in idTech4 and expanded in Doom3. The format was used along with layering so a handful of takes can be used to create a much larger number of stats than what can be accomplished using MD3 by itself. Meaning that instead of storing an entire mesh for each frame of animation, there is only one mesh file. This single mesh file is deformed using a vertex shader. Because there is only one mesh, only one VBO (vertex buffer object) needs to be created for each MD5 model. 50% of the animations in MD3 format are controlled by the player compared with MD5 where the player can only make moves that we will allow. Turtling for example is a non-issue with skeletal based animation (see 'turtling' here) "

BlakeKiller (modeller extraordinaire) continues, "..another disadvantage with MD3 is you have to split the player models up into legs, torso, and head and then rejoin them later. Which tends to cause weird lighting and popping with the animations."

haha! I laugh everytime I see that video!

The engine saga

So we contacted id Software to let them know our intentions to buy their engine. They gave us permission to start work immediately whilst they drew up the contract - and so our engine FSTECH1 was born. We were in negotiations with them for months and hadn't received a proposed contract by the time the FSTECH1 was ready for benchmarking on UrtHD so they gave us permission to release an alpha test.

We released the alpha of Urban Terror HD - and it wasn't received well at all. Unfortunately we didn't really advertise the purpose of the release properly, what you could expect from it, and what we were expecting from it. Everyone had been waiting for years and were expecting a complete game and when it wasn't they felt let down. Understandably. In reality, however, we had only been working on the engine itself for a very short time (about 5 months) before this. TwentySeven had just implemented the MD5 format two months prior, and FrankieV had quickly done up some MD5 animations to test them. We had a lot of content done for it, but we needed to performance test and benchmark the engine, and the only real way we had at our disposal was to release it to the community. So, as you know it went down like a water logged sheep. Shout out to our New Zealand friends... ;)

Now we have a dedicated QA team to get UrT5 up to the standard you would expect when you come to play it! :D

By June 2009 Zenimax Media had bought id Software and the company underwent a big overhaul with many original devs leaving; including the guy we were working with. After everything settled down we finally received the contract, but it had completely changed, so we had to decline the deal. Which was quite annoying to say the least.

We even tried building an engine from scratch we called Iceberg, but by about 2013 we realized it was going to take a decade for a small team like us to make, so we tossed that idea... also tried out a couple of other engines too, one called Ogre3D which was ok but wasn't really what we wanted. We Found the UDK (Unreal Development Kit) and started some primary art tests using FS based assets to see if if it could create the "feel" of the original and not long after that UE4 appeared, we voted to move to that. The Unreal Engine is amazing in what it can do and we are confident it will take us all into the future - if you are interested in that kind of thing, youtube is your friend.

Changing to the Unreal 4 engine meant a lot of work we did for HD (like player models, animations, maps, weapon models, game types, etc) which was made for FSTECH1 were going to be useless. Rather than having everything go to waste we decided to work on a 4.2 version of UrT, utilizing as much content as we could from HD on the current ioquake3 engine. We figured out a way to add a lot of new skins to UrT 4 to help keep things interesting and also implemented the anti-cheat and auth system (but only in the QVM which is not what we wanted obviously, but had to make do). So for quite a while we actually had two projects going on, Urt4 and 5. So in a nutshell what you are playing right now is a lot of fine tuning and bug-fixes, plus content and features from HD. One of the features from HD is jump mode! We all know that one. Only around 2016 we actually stopped working on the UrT4 project and focussed soley on UrT5.

As you know lots of hard work goes into a project like this. It's something we love doing and will continue to do - and of course we want to give the community the best possible game to enjoy. You have all been super patient and we know it's been a difficult situation left not knowing what's going on and we appreciate that more than you know. It's amazing to see the community (small but) still thriving after this time and in fact it's growing everyday. We are having old people come back, the PUG's (where they play organised games through discord) are more popular than ever and played for hours on end everyday! For a list of discord servers click here, join them all! Especially the top one ;).

Just to give you an understanding of the size of something like UrT5; to make up the game of 15GB like we have on steam it takes almost 1TB of content. That's how big our whole repo/project is. That's 1000 gigabytes of content! :O

Rest assured we are working as fast as we possibly can to get this alpha released by the end of the year - so keep doing what you're doing and before you know it UrT5 will be on your doorstep. Your perseverance will not go unrewarded! If you see the FS guys around be sure to tell them how much you appreciate the work they are putting in (and have put in). If you want a list of who does what, click here! If they feel appreciated by a supportive, friendly community it makes doing the work and putting the time in so much easier and more fulfulling. You want UrT5 out quicker? That's how to do it. Get under their skin and make them feel all warm and fuzzy!

Oh I almost forgot. It is our monthly donation drive time... *cough* give us your *cough* money *cough*. Click here to get verified donor status on our discord, website and forums. *cough*

Maybe I should give up smoking those huge big Cuban cigars. Cause that's how we roll down in Australia. Riding kangaroos and smoking cigars.

So this time there is a link down the bottom that will take you to the same post, but on our forums so you can have a chat about it if you'd like. Any questions? Comments? We'd love to hear them.

Until next time we at FrozenSand, bid you adieu.
comments: Feel free to discuss this on our forums

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